Dear Families and Friends,
I am writing with an update on the intrepid Africa student group and to share the tentative itinerary for the remainder of the semester in Senegal. I was sad to have to personally say goodbye to the group as I returned to the US last week, but I have been receiving updates from the instructors in Senegal on a regular basis and wanted to share what the group has been up to.
The group has been in Senegal for a little less than one week and I am really happy to share that the students are doing well, both physically and emotionally, as they continue the transition to this new host country. The group began their journey in Senegal with a bit of time in Dakar and then a multi-day orientation in the small community of Dene (just outside of Dakar). The group was lucky to be joined by a number of different members of the Dragons community in Senegal during their orientation – it sounds like they were given a proper warm welcome to the country. Yesterday, the group traveled east to the city of Thies. The group will stay a second night in the hotel before heading off to their first Senegalese homestay in this community. I know many of the students have been eager to enter into another homestay experience, after the first very meaningful homestay they had in Morandava.
Included below is an outline of the tentative itinerary for the coming weeks. We will make sure to let you know updates to this schedule, as we expect it to change a bit as the instructors continue to get to know the students and assess the best educational opportunities for them in Senegal.
As we look forward to hearing more as the group explores Senegal, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.
Week 2 in Senegal/Week 7 Program: 10/23/17-11/2/17
Leaving Dene, we travel to the town of Thies which offers us our first glimpse into Senegalese home-stays. These urban home-stays will be about a week and offer us the opportunity to connect with our first Senegalese family, embracing a new cuisine, a new language, and a new pace of life. While in Thies, we begin to learn about Senegalese history and politics, gender roles, educational systems, and more from local guest speakers, helping us develop the context and framework through which to understand the rest of our experiences across the country. In Thies, we also do some individual research to adjust and/or continue our Independent Study Project.
Week 3 in Senegal/Week 8 Program: 11/3/17-11/9/17
We then travel to Kédougou, a bustling town at the borderlands of Guinea and Mali and site of a modern-day gold rush. In Kedougou, we learn about how an explosion of gold mining has impacted the environment, economy, and public health of the region. Through conversations with migrant gold miners and others who have flocked to Kedougou in search of work, we begin to better understand what drives people out of their rural communities, and the challenges they face upon arriving in the city.
The next morning, we head southeast to the lush hills of Kedougou, where we trek for several days from village to village among the rolling hills and golden plains of this region. We practice our basic Pulaar phrases along the way with Pulaar, Bédik, and Bassari people. Along the way, we visit a traditional Bedick village and learn about animist belief systems as we immerse ourselves Senegal’s lush and diverse landscape.
Week 4 in Senegal/Week 9 Program: 11/10/17-11/21/17
Traveling west from Kedougou, we enter the flat green plains of Kolda, home to vibrant Pulaar communities of rice, peanut, and dairy farmers. Here, we settle into about a week of homestay in the rural village of Temanto Samba. The pace of life slows down as we live alongside our host families in a small farming village. We learn about a way of life that is in touch with the land as we stay in huts built from natural materials, help our families harvest and process their own food, and spend the evenings practicing our Pulaar language skills with our new friends. Village life brings with it the opportunities to experience village markets, visit a local fortuneteller, observe activities such as fishing and beekeeping, bake local bread, and learn more about the challenges of rural development. As we learn about life without electricity or running water, we learn how people can prosper with non-monetary wealth and resources. As we move into the final weeks of our travels together, students begin to plan the lessons and activities that we participate in as a group.
Week 5 in Senegal/Week 10 Program: 11/22/17-11/28/17
The Expedition Phase of our trip takes place as we return north from Kolda. Students work as a team to organize transportation, food, and lodging from Kolda to Ndem, and to plan engaging and powerful activities when we arrive in Ndem. Ndem is a community organized around service, agriculture, and traditional arts and crafts, and in Ndem the student group may choose to organize participation in agricultural projects, traditional music lessons, batik-dying workshops, and more.
Week 6 in Senegal/Week 11 Program: 11/29/17-12/4/17
We conclude our travels together on the fabulous cliff-side beaches of Toubab Dialaw. During this Transference Phase of our course, we reflect on our experiences together and process what we have learned in both Madagascar and Senegal. We come together as a community to celebrate our final days together, and prepare to take home our new passions, new skills, new friends, and a love of these two unique, vibrant, and dynamic places.
Week 7 in Senegal/Week 12 Program: 12/5/17-12/6/17
We then return to Dakar and head home.